Labor groups urge PNoy to act on 8 issues

By Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 30 2013 04:59 PM | Updated as of May 01 2013 11:18 PM

No promise of wage hike, only non-wage benefits, in Palace dialogue

MANILA -- A day before Labor Day, President Benigno Aquino III and top government officials held a dialogue with leaders of 19 different labor organizations.

During the dialogue, labor leaders presented eight labor issues that they want the administration to act on.

These are:

  • the passage of the security of tenure bill that will minimize the contractualization of workers;
  • resolution of extra-judicial killings against labor leaders;
  • taxation concerns;
  • agro-industrial plans;
  • passage of the freedom of information bill;
  • high cost of power;
  • the rights of the urban poor whose homes are to be demolished; and,
  • issues of migrant workers.

They also requested for a regular dialogue with the president.

The issues were raised by Daniel Edralin, leader of the Alliance of Progressive Labor; Susanit Tesiorna and Victorino Balais, leaders of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP); and Atty. Sonny Matula, leader of the Federation of Free Workers.

In response to the labor leaders' issues and concerns, Aquino said he is focused on four major goals -- keeping jobs, creating more jobs, making workers more skilled and taking care of the rights of workers.

He rejected the proposal to certify as urgent the security of tenure bill, saying that it is against the law.

Aquino said it might go against the creation of more jobs. While this will benefit the 1.8 million workers, it might scare away foreign investors and businessmen doing business in the country, he added.

He said the government has to find the right balance of interest between businessmen and labor.

To effectively implement labor laws and avoid the abuse of contractualization, the President ordered the release of P180 million to fill and add labor law compliance officers.

On the issue of extra-judicial killings, Aquino said it is clear that this has gone down during his administration.

He said he has already ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to thoroughly investigate labor-related cases of extra-judicial killings.

He also turned down the proposal for hiking the tax exemption for workers to P60,000 instead of P30,000, which, he said, he cannot do because it would mean government will lose P2.74 billion which can be used to put up classrooms, roads and housing.

Aquino also announced that he has signed two executive orders that will equal the benefits given by private companies to their workers to the benefits given to government employees.

He said the government is trying to resolve the job mismatch problem in the country, and announced the amendment of the SSS pension scheme, which is an additional .6 percent in contribution but a 7 percent additional benefit to the worker.

Aquino also called on the public to treat Labor Day as a day of celebration.